How to use store brands to your advantage

Save With Store Brands

by Gary Foreman

I've been experimenting with store brands to reduce my grocery bill, but most of the time my family likes the taste of the name brands better. Is there a way to find out who makes store brands, so I could buy the store brand made by my favorite? Or how do I find better store brands? I really like the savings, but it doesn't help if my family won't eat the food.

Good for you! Most of us are looking for frugal ways to reduce our grocery bills, and using generic and store brand items are often a good tool to use.

But, like your family, sometimes we prefer a brand that we've known and enjoyed. Getting used to something new isn't always easy. So let's see if we can't help you shift to store brands.

If you like a particular brand, you may find the store equivalent that they produce by doing a bit of detective work. For illustration, let's call that brand "Aunt Billie's Baked Beans." We'll begin with the obvious. There probably isn't any Aunt Billie, and the beans you like are probably made by a big company that might have a different name.

We need to find out who that manufacturer is. Begin by looking at the fine print on a can of beans. The manufacturer will be listed. They'll probably also include a web address and even an 800 number for consumer comments.

Call the 800 number. Tell them your family loves their product and you're interested if they make others. Casually ask if they make products under other names, too. There's a good chance you'll get a helpful answer.

If that doesn't work, visit the website. Search the "about" page for information on the company and what they do. You might find them mentioning the other companies they serve with their fine products. Naturally, those would be brands that you'd want to try.

Related: Store Brands - Who Makes Them

Their site will probably provide a customer contact email or a form that you can fill out. Your message should be about the same as what you'd say on the phone.

Sometimes it's harder to find the answer. You may need to find the company that owns Aunt Billie's. A visit to their site's "about" page should provide that answer. Then contact them just as you did Aunt Billie's.

Occasionally your grocery store manager will be helpful. Ask him about your favorite brand next time you shop. If there is a store brand equivalent, he'll tell you.

And check the grocer's website. They may have a page on store brands that would help you connect the dots with the store equivalent.

Even if you can't find a store brand that's made by your favorite company, you still have a couple of ways to make generics work for you.

You could enlist your family and do a store brand taste test. Have them do a side-by-side comparison of different low cost brands and select the one they like best.

Also, check with friends to see what store brands they like. Do a web search to see if anyone has posted comments. There's no guarantee that your family will agree, but it might give you some brands to try.

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And, since your family is complaining about taste, another option would be to add some seasoning to the store brand. It's not really the beans that your family is objecting to. It's the spices that come with the beans. Even plain appearing canned veggies have some seasoning added.

So imitate the name brand seasoning. There are a multitude of recipe sites that can provide ideas for you. Learning to use seasoning can improve all of your cooking.

Finally, consider encouraging your family to change their habits. Many brands are popular because they add salt, sugar, or other ingredients that might not be good for your health. What they like might not be the best for them.

Don't give up too easily. Any switch you make will save you money every time you buy that product for years to come.

Reviewed November 2017

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Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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